Let ‘Em In? No way!

Paul McCartney and Wings - Let 'Em In


Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in

I am nine years old and in the fourth grade, and I am already on my way to becoming nocturnal, but it’s not because I’m afraid of the dark and try to wait for dawn before I sleep (that comes later, and only infrequently).

No, it’s because I have a vivid imagination and a mind like a steel trap (my mother says) and I remember things at the most inconvenient times.

For example, two years ago, I was on this kick where I was reading a lot of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries, and even though none of them were particularly scary, there was this one line that made me afraid of my own bedroom. “Frank! Look! The room has no floor!”

The truth was that the house they were investigating had a room where the whole floor was an elevator, and so all the furniture was bolted to the walls. Not a problem, except that in our apartment above my mother’s store, my desk was built in, and my carpet was blood red, and at night I couldn’t see the floor.

I am only seven, so it doesn’t occur to me that my bed and nightstand are not bolted to the floor, so I make a point of leaving socks and things in a trail from the bedroom door to the bathroom door. Just in case.

Sister Suzie, brother John
Martin Luther, Phil and Don
Brother Michael, auntie Gin
Open the door and let ’em in, yeah

I am ten years old and the show PM Magazine, the one with Chef Tell, is running a show about how Paul McCartney is really dead, and if you play the Beatles’ records backwards there are all these codes and stuff recorded in the layers of the tracks, and he was barefoot on that one album cover, and the license plate on the car said 28 IF.

My mother insists that Paul McCartney isn’t really dead, or a ghost, or whatever, that he’s really just hiding in some other country (Japan? I think? Or Australia??) because of drugs, and he’s got this band called Wings.

I want to believe her, but I don’t want to believe her because the spooky story is fun.

But late at night when I can’t sleep, especially if my mother and her husband have been fighting, I turn on my white clock-radio – my first grown-up radio – and listen to the pop station, and while I kind of like it when Eddie Rabbitt sings “I Love a Rainy Night,” when Paul McCartney and Wings sing “Let ’em In,” the scratchy part of his voice makes me not want to turn out the light or go to sleep.

Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell

I am sixteen, and I hate going to sleep, because I can’t avoid nightmares, even though I have nothing, really, to be stressed about. I’ve given up listening to music to help me sleep, because it doesn’t, and switched to talk radio. My usual MO is to keep the volume super-low so that I have to strain to hear it, and the act of straining makes me tired and I fall asleep.

But lately I’ve become hooked on the Larry King radio show, and tonight Robert Englund, who plays Freddy Krueger, is on his show and when people call in he talks to them in Freddy’s voice. I want to sneak out of my room and call in, but the hallway is dark and my parents are sleeping, and bed is safe, right?

Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell

I am thirty-eight years old, and I’m home alone with my two dogs, Zorro and Miss Cleo, because Fuzzy is on a business trip in Florida. Two days before, the first stick showed a pink plus sign and the second one blinked “pregnant” at me, and I freaked out a little, but I was so happy. But earlier tonight I started cramping and spotting, and I called my friend Kathy to come hang out with me – she and Scott both came and made me laugh and distracted me.

Fuzzy will be home late in the morning, and we’ll go to the doctor, but right now, I’m alone and I’m scared I’ve miscarried and equally frightened that I didn’t, and just as I’m falling asleep, Miss Cleo growls at nothing. I’m pretty sure she’s dreaming, but she sleeps with her eyes open, so I’m never sure.

(I did miscarry.)

Do me a favor
Open the door and let ’em in

I am forty-six years old, but I’m also still seven and nine and ten and sixteen and thirty-eight, and there are nights when, even though my husband is sleeping peacefully beside me, and our dogs (different dogs now: Perry, Max, Teddy, and Piper) are also sleeping, that I can’t fall asleep because I keep falling into nightmares, so I read on my kindle and wait for dawn.

Or I wake up Fuzzy, because I’m terrified of something I dreamed, even though I don’t remember what it was, and  he holds me until I’m calm, and understands that I can’t talk about it until the magic of morning takes it all away.

And in the back of my head, that creepy Paul McCartney song is always playing.

Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Someone’s knockin’ at the door
Somebody’s ringin’ the bell
Do me a favor
Open the


Short Story: Under Glass


SFO CoffinWhen Joe had finally agreed to spend the first weeks of his retirement remodeling their house, he’d assumed that Molly meant redoing the kitchen, adding the island she’d always wanted, and increasing the cabinet space. He’d never expected that he’d be renting heavy equipment and hiring contractors to demolish the garage in order to expand it and add a second story with mother-in-law quarters.

He’d never expected that he’d be working with the guys he’d hired to haul away chunks of the cement that had formerly been the garage floor, or dig out a new basement.

He’d certainly never expected to find a small, sealed coffin under the layers of mud and sand and concrete.

A coffin that still held a body.

Actually, it reminded him of that fairy-tale his daughter had loved when she was younger. The one about the girl in the glass casket. The one who wakes up when the prince kisses her.


Except this coffin wasn’t made of glass. Instead, it was formed from lead and bronze, with a pair of diamond-shaped glass windows set into the top. And it was old. Decades at least. Maybe centuries.

Except this girl, the one inside the box, wasn’t an adolescent on the cusp of womanhood. Rather the pale face he saw centered in the top window, the one framed by jet-black curls adorned with a bit of lace, was cherub-cheeked and babyish, and he didn’t think she’d been a day over three when she died.

Funny, she didn’t look dead.

She looked for all the world as though she’d just been tucked in for an afternoon nap, the dark eyelashes of her closed eyes resting against the soft skin of those adorable cheeks. Those pinch-able cheeks.

“You have such fat, pink, cheeks, Gracie. I’m going to eat you up!” Joe bounced his five-year-old daughter on his knee, laughing with the child as she giggled. “I’m going to stuff an apple in your mouth, and roast you in the oven,” he teased.

Gracie howled with little-girl laughter, understanding that her father was only teasing, and demanding to know, “What else are you gonna do to me, Daddy?”

“I’m going to wrap you up so tight…” This was their bedtime routine. Molly was in charge of bath time and pajamas, but Joe handled Storytime and tucking in.

“Night-night, Daddy.”

“G’night, Gracie.”

But Gracie wasn’t a little girl anymore. She was twenty, off studying at Tulane, with father-daughter bedtime stories far behind her.

Still, Joe thought, his own daughter had once looked just like this child when she was sleeping. Peaceful. Innocent. A little girl taking her afternoon nap.

Only the white rose clutched in her tiny fist told a different story. The white rose and the nameplate on the foot of the box. He reached out with a gloved hand to rub the grime away: Edith, it read. No last name.

Poor kid.

He stared down at the girl under glass for a few more minutes, before he realized that the sun had gone down, and the men he’d found waiting outside Home Depot at six AM on Tuesday, the same men who had found their own ride out to his place for the two days since, had already jumped in their truck and gone home.

He really ought to call someone.

He really shouldn’t just leave her there, in the open. What if some kid wandered in? What would the neighbors think?

Joe left the place that used to be his garage, and went to grab a tarp from the back of his Jeep, noticing that Molly’s Prius wasn’t in the driveway. He wondered where she – oh, right – it was Thursday. She taught at the adult school on Thursdays. She’d left a lasagna out to defrost… he was supposed to start it in time for dinner. Funny how physical labor made you forget stuff like that.

He was about to swing the canvas cloth over the coffin when he caught sight of her face, found her fathomless black eyes staring at him from under the glass.

Wait a second. Hadn’t they been closed before?

Joe dropped the tarp over the casket and retreated from the remnants of his garage. The back of his neck had that cold, prickly feeling, and it was pretty dark out. Better to get inside, start dinner so it’d be ready when Molly got home, and figure out who you call to report a dead child in a coffin under your garage floor.

Was that something you dialed 9-1-1 for?

* * *

Friday morning rolled in with a violent rainstorm, which meant no work on the garage, but while Molly was upset about the delay, Joe was relieved. He hadn’t told her about the coffin. His wife was prone to having nightmares, and he didn’t want to be the cause of another sleepless night.

He’d waited until she left for work, and then he’d called the emergency line after all, because, really, who else would know what to do?

“Sir, this isn’t funny,” the operator informed him. “We have a major storm causing flooding at all the low-lying intersections, and can’t afford to waste time on pranksters.”

“I’m not a prankster,” Joe had insisted, and either she had sensed the anguish in his voice, or she had a friend she wished to twit, because she’d referred him to the county coroner instructing him to ‘ask for Charlie.’

It turned out that Charlie was actually Charlene, and she was also convinced it was some kind of a joke. Joe had gone out to the garage with his smartphone and snapped some pictures, texting them to the cell number she’d provided.

Two hours later, the coroner’s van arrived and a redheaded woman who appeared to be in her early fifties joined Joe in the torn-down garage, flanked by a ferret-faced man who said he was Jasper from the historical society, and a woman in a conservative skirt and veil, the contemporary habit of a nun, who said she was from the Sisters of Innocence and explained that her organization would handle the burial at no charge.

“Mr. Hunter,” the coroner greeted him. ” I’m Charlie. We spoke on the phone. I’m so sorry; this must have been quite upsetting for you.”

“It was definitely a surprise,” he replied, affably enough. “My wife doesn’t know.”

“I’m not surprised you found a coffin,” the historical society rep interrupted. “From the photos you sent, yours is about a hundred and fifty years old… this whole area was a cemetery then. The bodies were relocated around the turn of the century, though… ground’s too wet… coffins kept floating to the surface.”

Joe had no way to respond to that, so he ignored it, except to say, “It’s not mine.” And then, “It’s here… under the tarp.”

But Jasper continued. “She clearly came from a wealthy family. Lead. Bronze. Glass. This thing was built to last.”

Joe turned his back to Jasper.

Charlie did the honors, removing the drape, and the three adults all looked into the window at the still, small, form inside. Her eyes were closed again (or was it ‘still?’) Joe saw, but her mouth looked a little different – the lips seemed redder and plumper – or maybe he was just imagining things.

“Alright,” the coroner said. “Jasper, if you’ll give me a hand moving her, we’ll get going. I think Sister Celeste has some paperwork for you to do, sir.”

The nun had been murmuring a prayer over the casket, and she took a moment to gaze through the window before allowing Joe to direct her toward the house. “Such a beautiful child. So well preserved…”

“It’s because the coffin’s sealed” Jasper said. “No air, no deterioration.”

Joe decided he didn’t care much for Jasper.

* * *

Joe Hunter had never been a great cook, but he figured if he was going to tell his wife what had been removed from where the garage used to be, he’d better ply her with food and drink first. The morning’s rain had left a clear, crisp, night in its wake. Chilly, but not too cold for barbecue. He had a pitcher of margaritas mixed and the steaks ready to go on the grill as soon as Molly arrived home.

The cold pricklies came back at about the same time his phone rang.  Charlie from the coroner’s office calling to tell him that something had happened.

“Happened?” Joe had no idea why she was calling him.

“When we got to the morgue… when we opened the casket… the child… she was gone.”

Joe had no idea what to say, but it didn’t matter, because Molly walked in just then, carrying a white rose and smiling like she had on their last anniversary when he’d given her that string of real pearls.

“Do I smell charcoal?” she asked, and lifted her face to his for a kiss.

“Yeah,” he said. “I thought… we won’t have many more nights warm enough.” He thumbed the phone to an inactive state and set it down on the counter, face down. “Margarita?”


They ate and laughed, and he finally told her about the coffin and showed her the pictures. “It almost looks like her eyes are open in this one,” Molly observed.

Joe agreed that it really did.

They went to bed early, but they didn’t go to sleep because Molly was reading a chapter of some novel on her Kindle and he was using his iPad to send an email to Gracie. “Come home for Thanksgiving break,” he requested. “Your mother and I both miss you.”

Around midnight, after Molly had turned off her light and rolled on her side to sleep, Joe got up to check the house. It was his ritual, one his father had performed long ago. Make sure all the doors are locked, prep the coffee-maker for the morning. Hit the bathroom one more time.

He was passing Gracie’s room on his way back to bed when he heard it. Soft, so soft it was quieter than a dream, a lick of childish laughter.

The kind of laughter a three-year-old might produce.

Notes: I’ve had the concept of “Under Glass” in my head for years. When I went looking for art to accompany this story, however, I stumbled upon a true story about a coffin that was found under the floor of a garage in San Francisco, in the Lone Mountain neighborhood. I know the area because I had classes in the Lone Mountain campus of University of San Francisco, once upon a time. Here’s the link to the actual story: Little Girl Found in Coffin


Flash-Fiction: Toxic to Dogs

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_tarasov'>tarasov / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

“Hey, who brought the brownies?” Yvette leaned over the picnic table and breathed in the heady scent of chocolate and… something else. “Can I have one?”

Thea passed her a spatula, “Get one for me, too? I’m desperate for a sugar fix.”

“Sure thing.” The small brunette scooped out a brownie for each of them, served casually on folded-in-quarters paper towels. They had plates, but the towels would double as napkins, and they broke down faster. Biodegradeable, and all that.

“Dude, brownies!” the boys – Claude and Jason – reached for the confections but Yvette yelped and raced away clutching her napkin-wrapped treasure close to her chest.

“Get your own!” she shouted. “They’re on the picnic table!”

The afternoon wore on, and the five friends splashed in the cold waters of the creek and hiked in the nearby woods. At dusk, they gathered around the campfire for hamburgers and baked beans, and more brownies.

“Seriously,” Yvette asked, having her third one. “Where did these come from. The more I eat, the hungrier I get.”

Claude and Jason shared a look and some awkward laughter. “Actually…” the former began, pausing only to push his floppy black hair away from his face, “Greta brought them over this morning. Said she was sorry she wouldn’t be able to make it before moonrise.”

“Greta? Greta who mixes weed into green smoothies Greta?” Yvette had never really gotten along with her, and things had been worse since she and Jason had begun dating. Greta had wanted Jason badly. “I had no idea she could bake. Maybe she’s useful after all. Pass me another?”

“Should you be eating so many?” Claude  asked. “I thought you were allergic to chocolate.”

Jason slung his arm around Yvette’s shoulder and nuzzled her neck. Addressing Claude he said, “Dude, she’s a big girl. Let her be.” Into his girlfriend’s ear, he whispered. “Yvie, baby, Greta’s not so bad, really. She can’t compete with you, anyway. Loosen up.”

In the light of the rising moon, Yvette’s eyes glittered. “You want loose? I saw hoof-prints, the other side of the creek. Burgers are great and all, but… nothing beats fresh venison.”

“Careful, Yvie. You know we shouldn’t shift when we’re high.” Claude warned. Across the fire, the expression on Thea’s face implied silent agreement.

“I’m not high,” Yvette protested, giggling. “Just a little buzzed. Who’s with me? A quick swim in the creek to clear our heads, and then we hunt.” She was already kicking off her shoes and peeling off her shirt, reveling in the sensation of the crisp night air on her bare skin. She rolled her neck, and let her body morph into its natural form – thick fur, pointed ears, a bushy tail, and razor-sharp claws.

As one, the others followed suit, stripping and shifting, just like Yvette had.

The four werewolves dashed down the hill to the creek, where they splashed like puppies in a play pool. When they were wet enough, cold enough, and clear-headed enough, they rumbled up the bank on the far side, and took off into the woods.

Claude scented the first deer, and he, Jason, and Thea joined forces to take it down. As pack-leader, it was his job to know where everyone was, but the combination of marijuana, sugar, and fresh, hot, blood distracted him, and when Yvie changed directions, he lost her scent.

Alone, Yvie caught a different scent. The generic tang of Shifter resolved into  the more familiar Wolf and she went to investigate.

Greta  – at least it smelled like Greta – Yvette had never seen her true form, so she wasn’t entirely sure – stood on the edge of the creek, waiting, but there was another scent mingled with hers. Jason’s. Unmistakably, undeniably, Jason’s scent. Yvette could tell that the male note was from an article of clothing, and not the other’s fur, but it didn’t matter.  Her shifted brain identified Greta as a threat.

Still poised on the edge of the bank, Greta turned her head, having caught Yvie’s scent, in turn. She fixed her gaze on Yvette and growled, “Hey, puppy. Come to play?”

Yvette was many things, but a puppy wasn’t one of them. Fury and bloodlust coursed through her. Jealousy mixed with pot and chocolate and rage removed her inhibitions and fueled her attack with sugar-shocked strength. She leaped at the other female in a killing frenzy.

Claws ripped through fur and flesh. Yelps and screams filled moonlit night.

When the boys and Thea returned, bellies full of fresh game, they found little of Greta. A few stray bits of fur and flannel.

Yvie, on the other hand, had reverted to human form and was huddled in the brush, puking and shivering.

“Come on,” Claude urged. “We have to get her to a doctor.”

“Night doc at the clinic treats our kind,” Thea said. “I’ll get the car. You two help Yvie cover up and get moving.”

Thea drove while Claude called the clinic. The doc they knew would be waiting at the emergency room door.

Yvette rode the whole way with her head in Jason’s lap, his hand stroking her hair. Upon their arrival, the doctor whisked her away on a stretcher, while Jason, Thea and Claude were left to wait for their friend.

Hours later, the trio were allowed to join their friend in her room. She’d be staying overnight, the doc told them. For observation.

“Doc, I don’t get it,” Claude said. “We all had the brownies too. I know it’s bad to shift when you’re high but…”

“It wasn’t the pot… ” Yvie’s voice was weak, but they all turned toward her. “It was the chocolate. I should have stopped, Claude.” She hung her head so her friends couldn’t see her embarrassment. “My mother… she wasn’t pure Wolf. She was… she was half Husky.”

“So?” Jason asked the question.

“So when a hybrid shifter eats chocolate they go crazy and then they get crazy sick,” Claude explained.

Squeezing himself into his girlfriend’s hospital bed and wrapping himself around her protectively, Jason asked, “You’re a hybrid?” After Yvette nodded her confirmation, he continued. “I didn’t realize. You smell just like Wolf.”

“But I react like Dog, sometimes,” Yvie said quietly. “I ate Greta because I couldn’t stop myself, and then I got sick because of the guilt – she was a pack-mate even if she was a bitch.” Yvette used the word in the human way.

“So your chocolate allergy… it’s because… ?”

“Yep,” Yvette admitted ruefully. “It’s… it’s toxic to dogs.”


(This story was inspired by Thomas Jancis and Selena Taylor)

Egaeus’s Protege

xrayed teeth


“You teach literature don’t you?” The question was casual, conversational.

Her answer was a terrified bobbing of her head, up and down. In her defense, the metal bracket holding her mouth open and her tongue out of the way prevented actual speech.

“You know the Poe story ‘Berenice?'”

Another uncontrolled nod. Spittle formed at the corners of her mouth and he used a clean, white handkerchief to dab it away, then grimaced when he noticed that the bubbles of saliva held traces of blood from the metal cutting into the corners of her mouth. Untidy, that.

“He did it wrong, the man in that story.” He kept the conversation going as he reached for his favorite pliers. Needle-nose, with a cushioned grip. “He waited until she was buried before he went after his prizes. Miraculous that she still had all of them intact, especially considering the general lack of medical care or balanced diets in that era.”

The brunette with the wide brown eyes twisted frantically in her chair, but the zip-ties didn’t have a millimeter of give in them. She was there to stay.

“Grave-digging is such filthy work. Mud and bugs and gore… much easier to choose a live subject.” He leaned over her, pushed stray hair away from her sweat-soaked brow with almost tender care. “This is going to be… extremely painful.”

The pliers closed around his selected target. Smiling as he worked he twisted, tugged… pulled… until his quarry came free, root and all.

“Your dentist must be very good, my dear,” he said to the woman whose screams couldn’t quite make it past her throat. He lowered his voice to a reverent whisper: “You have lovely bicuspids.”

He let the small, white object fall into a metal bowl.

He expected that she’d react to the sound, but his expectation was met with great silence.

She had fainted.

No matter, she would wake soon enough, and they’d begin again. Wash, rinse, repeat, until he had all thirty-two.

Old Egaeus would have been proud.

Image copyright: radub85 / 123RF Stock Photo

The Lady of La Paz

Victorian Woman on a Shingle Beach by Lee AvisonThis is a true story… mostly.

Almost every year, during late spring or early summer, I visit my mother at her home in La Paz, BCS, Mexico.

Every so often, on these visits, I see something surprising.

One year, I even saw a ghost. I call her The Lady of La Paz.

The first time I saw the Lady was during the moon tide, when the water crept high up onto the beach, over the road, settling into pools of liquid silver.

An airplane was flying low over the bay, heading toward the airport – the last plane of the night – and as its angle of descent shifted, its lights caught the wisps of the clouds that were still shrouding the moon, protecting us from the full power of its glow.

Closer and closer the plane came, the bright front light changing the shapes of the shore, making creatures of the mangroves, and turning the shadows into living things.

And that’s when she made her first appearance.

Her face was hidden by a veil, but the shape of her hat was unmistakable, as were the lines of her turn-of-the-century dress. She held a parasol.

Her pace was steady, every step measured and sure, picking her way across the hard-packed sand, following the cone of light the airplane was casting ground-ward.

Just as she reached the point, the beam of light that held her began too thin, and her form to waver, as if she was dissipating on the faint breeze.

That’s when the clouds finally melted entirely away, and the Lady turned to stare out to sea.

She never looked my way. I never heard her voice.

Somehow, though, I knew – I knew – that she was waiting – searching – pining for her lost love.

I held my breath and watched, willing a man in a fedora to emerge from the waves and take her into his arms.

But of course he never came.

And when the moon left the sky to the sun, she faded into daylight.

When I told my parents about seeing the Lady, my mother mentioned that she’d seen her, too, on the nights of the full moon. My step-father, on the other hand insisted it was just a trick of the light, a happy merging of surf and fog and the lights from the plane.

I suppose I’ll never know for sure if the Lady of La Paz was real, or just a figment of my vivid imagination.

The part of me that lives in the world of computers and technology and social media knows that moonlit nights and moon tides can do funny things to our perceptions. The part of me that still, deep down, believes in the possibility of ghosts and soulmates wants there to still be magic in the world.

And who’s to say? Maybe the Lady was real at one point. In my head, she’s a pianist, a daughter of the family that owned the gold mine in El Triunfo, a student of Francisca Mendoza’s, and her lover is someone her parents would never approve of, a miner perhaps, or a seaman who helped to bring pianos to Baja Sur.

I keep telling myself that someday I’ll write their story, and then they will become real.

And until then?

If you’re walking on a certain stretch of beach in Baja Sur – the one with the view of El Mogote and the city lights in La Paz –  and you happen to find a full moon above you, and a moon tide lapping at your toes, keep careful watch as the last plane flies low over the water, en route to the airport.

You might see the Lady on her evening walk, holding her parasol just so, and waiting for her love.



Flash-fic: The Rules

monster under the bed


“Harry, remember, it’s only your first night. No one expects you to be perfect. Just go, growl, and get out.”

“I know, Mom.”

“Avoid the light… it won’t actually cause you to combust, but it can still hurt you. Remember what happened to Daniel? He was looking up at the closet ceiling when his assigned Child turned the light on. He was bulb-blind for days. Kept bumping into furniture… nearly got caught.”

“Avoid the light,” Harry repeated dutifully. “Got it, Mom.”

“And don’t forget about the Rules.”

“The rules?”

“Harry, we’ve been over this a fafillion times. If the Child is sipping water, they are Protected. If the Child has stuffed animals they are Protected…” His mother saw him roll his eye. “What?”

“The… stuffed animals… they aren’t Real animals, are they?”

“Of course not, Harry. They’re made of plush and foam and fluff.”

“Are you sure? Because Becky said – ”

“Harold M. Puddle, how many times have I told you that your sister makes up these stories just to bait you. The stuffed animals are not Real.”

“Then how can they Protect?”

“Because Children have Imaginations, Harry. And they Believe.”

“I thought Imagination was what we were made of.”

“Well, yes, but…”

“So if they can Believe we are under their beds or in their closets, and  Believe the stuffed animals are Real…” Harry had a scary thought. “Mom? What if they Believe that we aren’t Real?”

“Hush, youngster. You might as well wonder whether dragons really breathe fire. Some things simply Are.”

“Okay.” He straightened his posture and held out his claw-tipped paws. “Do I look fearsome enough?”

“Oh, very much so,” his mother assured. She pulled him close and gave him a slurpy kiss. “I’m so proud of you, Harry. You’re not even eight hundred yet, and you’ve been assigned your own Child. Just don’t forget about the Blankets.”

Harry knew about those, but his eye grew wider anyway. “Mom?”

“It’s the biggest Rule there is. A Child under Blanket Protection must never be touched. If your Child is under Blankets, what do you do?”

“Go, growl, get out,” Harry repeated the advice she’d given him a few minutes before. But he had a question, “What if… what if a Hand or a Foot isn’t Covered?”

“Well, some of the most experienced Monsters sometimes tickle a Child’s Foot or brush their fur against a Child’s Hand, but you shouldn’t try that on your first night. If the Child wakes up, and you get caught you’ll be sent back to remedial hunting. No one wants to spend their entire life chasing Cats and Dogs.”

Harry had met some of the remedial hunters. They ended up patchy and toothless. He definitely didn’t want that. “I promise not to try it… at least not tonight.”

“Good for you, Harry. Now remember, you’re scary, you’re stealthy, and you can make Children scream.”

“I’m scary,” he repeated. “I’m stealthy. And I can make Children scream.”  He took a deep breath. “Okay, Mom… here I go.”

He stepped onto the Ladder that would take him into the Attic and then into the Closet in the Child’s room, repeating it as he went. “Scary. Stealthy. Scream…”

As the Trap Door opened, Harry heard his mother’s voice, “I love you Harry.”

Harry grimaced happily.  I love you, too, Mom, he thought. Here I go.


Image copyright: innovatedcaptures / 123RF Stock Photo


Hello October

Hello October


The song says to “wake me up when September ends,” and it has, it has, and with the ticking of a clock and the changing of a calendar page, my second-favorite month of the year has arrived.

October, when even though the daily highs reach into the 80s, the evenings are cool enough for pajamas. October, when even the days in the early part of the month are pumpkin-scented and come with a background track of crunching leaves and whispering trees, and the shadows might – just might – be hiding something a little bit scary, a little bit otherworldly, a little bit dangerous.

I have no desire to live inside a horror movie or inhabit the pages of a horror novel, but I like to flirt with the macabre, so this month, I’ll be playing in the HorrorDailies sandbox. It’s a new-ish month-long project from the folks at Holidailies, but with a darker twist.

Expect a collection of Halloween memories and seasonal flash-fiction. If you have a concept or a topic you’d like me to play with, leave a comment here, or track me down on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Hauntings.


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Creativity-Induced Insomnia

I wasn’t going to do anything intense this month. I mean, yes, August is always the month when my creativity comes back like dandelions in a suburban lawn – profuse and persistent – but this morning (yeah, you read that right: morning) my muse, or at least the creative part of my brain is also downright persnickety.


I mean, it’s 6:43 in the morning and I’ve been up for more than an hour, which would be great if I actually WANTED to be awake, but I don’t. I want to be asleep, curled up with my husband, who, as I type this, is blissfully snoring away on his side of the bed.

It’s really kind of unfair.

Especially since I took half a dose of Benadryl at 1:43 this morning so I could breathe, an amount that typically renders me unconscious for the better part of a night and into the morning.

Tonight, though? It wired me.


So for three-and-a-half hours i tossed and turned and tried every trick I know in order to lull myself to sleep, except singing myself a lullaby, because everyone knows that if you’re the one singing you just wake up more.

Look, I know – I know – I shouldn’t be complaining about having so many projects firing up my brain right now, especially since I have friends who aren’t even getting postcards from their muses, let alone actual sparks or ideas or insights. And really, if I could give them just a couple of hours of this weird energy, I totally would.

Frankly, I could use the break.

Or at least, I could use a nap.

But instead of sleeping, I’m typing this in the dark (I like to write in bed.) And of course – of course – now that I’ve decided to be productive, sleepiness has come oozing back in, enticing me with its siren call.

“Melissa,” it says, “come back to bed. You know you want to.”

I refrain from pointing out that technically, I’m still in bed. Sleep doesn’t really care for the facts.

So I give up. I’m letting sleep have a second (third, fourth, twelfth) chance. I’m clicking “publish, and then I’m turning out the light (again) and nestling under the covers (again) to try and ignore the snores from Fuzzy that are adorable when I’m wide awake and infuriating when I’m trying not to be.


My fickle muse’s new best friend.

Sunday Brunch: August Nocturne



When All Things Girl still existed, I had a regular column called “Sunday Brunch.” Well, the core team of ATG launched a new ezine, Modern Creative Life, in March, and I’m writing “Sunday Brunch” over there once a month. Here’s an excerpt from this month’s post:

With the flip of a calendar page (or a swipe of finger on a smartphone) July is gone for another year, and it is August, my month. The first summer month when, even though the sun is still reluctant to set, the days are discernably shorter, and the nights incrementally longer.

I’ve always been attuned to the night. While some people are morning people, happy and chirpy at first light, the only time I typically see dawn is when I haven’t yet been to bed. I have never been afraid of darkness; rather I crave it.

I come by it naturally.

The night before I was born, there was a full moon and an eclipse. If that doesn’t lock you into a special relationship with nighttime, I don’t know what does. (Recently, I asked my mother if she remembered any of that, and she reminded me that she’d been a little preoccupied with being in labor.)

You can read the rest of the post at Modern Creative Life, and if you’re so inclined, consider submitting an essay, poem, or piece of short fiction to our next issue, which launches in September and has the theme of  Wisdom.



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Wind and Peppermint

It’s just after midnight, and if the moon isn’t quite full it’s so close to it that it’s not worth it to quibble. From our bedroom, I text my husband in his upstairs office/man-cave. “I’m bored,” I type. “Wanna make out?”

“I’m all sniffly,” he texts back. “Sniffly and blechy. It wouldn’t be fun for you.”

“True,” I respond. After a beat, I rapid fire another message. “Want some peppermint tea? Meet me in the kitchen in five minutes.”

“Sure,” he says.

Hands Holding a Mug of Tea or CoffeeI leave our bedroom, escorted by a posse of pooches who all want to do their nighttime business. I pause to fill our electric kettle and turn it on, and then I open the sliding door that leads to the back yard.

As the dogs rush past me into the moonlight night, a gust of wind washes over me. It isn’t particularly hot in the house – we don’t have heat or a/c running – but that blast of fresh air is as cooling, as invigorating as the salt spray I used to feel when we played on the jetty at Sandy Hook, or stood at the end of the Ocean Grove pier. It only lacks that salty, coastal tang, to be the perfect breeze.

My husband comes into the kitchen just as the kettle finishes boiling. “Pour the water, would you?” I ask him, and I hear him doing just that.

Me? I’m still standing in the doorway, drinking in the wind, watching the trees get tossed back and forth, listening to the different pitches of the jingling dog-tags on the animals and the metal wind chimes hanging inside the house, and out.

I feel his warmth as he comes to stand behind me. “Enjoying the wind?”

“I love this weather,” I tell him, even though he knows I live for storms and blustery days. “It’s going to be 85 tomorrow. I’m not ready for summer.”

“Ugh, me either.”

We stand there a while, and then he brings the dogs inside and beds them down, and I carry our mugs to the table. “Bring the honey, please?” I request, “And a little dish for our teabags?”

The sliding door remains open, just far enough that the wind can flirt with us, but the dogs who aren’t in bed can’t wander back out. (Max doesn’t like to come inside at night.)

Fuzzy and sit at the kitchen table, sipping peppermint tea and letting the wind keep us company while we chat about nothing for a few minutes. Then he gets up. “I left a program running,” he says. He takes his half-finished mug of tea with him, but he kisses me before he leaves.

As for me, I stay at the kitchen table, surrounded by the soft sounds of the night, spinning stories on my laptop.


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